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How to install Armbian on Orange Pi without screen or keyboard with FTDI cable • DIY Projects
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How to install Armbian on Orange Pi without screen or keyboard with FTDI cable

armbian orangepi install serial fdti no screen keyboard

In the previous tutorial, we saw that it is very simple to install Raspbian on a Raspberry Pi (or RPi Zero W) without the need for a keyboard and a screen. You may have wondered what well serve this small three-pin connector on the board. Well, it’s a connector that makes it possible to establish a serial link. In this tutorial, we’ll see how to use it to install Armbian. This method works on all Orange Pi models but also on all Linux distributions. For this tutorial, we will install Armbian on an Orange Pi Lite. You will need a serial to USB converter (also known as a FTDI cable), some Dupont jumper, a Windows PC, and Putty software (or equivalent on MacOS or Linux). You can also use a Mac or Linux PC without any additional software with the screen command.

Necessary material

Recover Armbian image for your Orange Pi

Start by retrieving the Armbian image that matches your model. For Orange Pi Lite for example, the server version of the desktop is sufficient. It will be possible to add an XFCE graphical desktop later by following this tutorial.

Unpack the 7Z archive. On macOS you can use The Unarchiver. On Windows, you can use 7-Zip.

Preparing the SD board with Etcher

Download and install the resin.io Etcher software that is right for your operating system (macOS, Windows, Linux) here. Insert the minimum 8GB SD board (preferably class 10) into the drive. Start Etcher. Press Select image and specify the path to the ZIP file you just downloaded. The SD board is automatically selected by Etcher. If not, specify the path by clicking Select Drive. Start installing the files on the SD board by pressing Flash! At the end of the installation, the SD board is automatically ejected from the player.

Wire the serial connection

Using Dupont jumpers, wire the serial link like this.

Warning. Reverse RX and TX to work
USB-to-serial (FTDI) Color


Orange Pi
RXI Orange TX
TXO Yellow RX

Some cables do not have a cue. You can use the official FTDI chip site to find the location that matches your converter.

Invert the RX / TX cables on the FTDI converter side.

Finally, plug the USB-to-serial converter into the USB port of your computer

Start serial communication with Putty

Open Microsoft PowerShell and run the mode command to list all Serial devices connected to the PC. Here, the FTDI converter is connected to COM11.

Download and install Putty by going to the official project site. There is also a version that does not require any installation (alternative). Start Putty and check the option serie. In the Serial line field, enter the COM port (here COM11). Specify a speed of 115200 baud in the Speed field. Finally click Open.

Putty now listens to messages from the OPI.

On macOS, Linux or a Raspberry Pi!

Open the Terminal and run the ls /dev/tty*  command to find the FDTI converter. On my Mac, it can be found on /dev/tty.usbserial-A1048DR2

We will use the screen command which will allow us to communicate with the Orange Pi via the serial port as with Putty under Windows. It simply passes two parameters:

Which give

screen /dev/tty.usbserial-A1048DR2 115200

To stop screen, use the combination CTRL + A.

Startup Orange Pi

Insert the SD board into the drive and turn on the OPI using the start button on the side of the board.

A few seconds after the start, the first messages appear in the Putty window. On macOS or Linux, you will get exactly the same thing.


When the Orange Pi is turned on, nothing appears in the Putty or Screen window. Here are the main causes of malfunction:

Identifying and creating the user account

At the end of the startup, Armbian suggests you to identify yourself. Identify yourself with the root user and the default password 1234. Armbian suggests that you immediately change the default password.

  1. Enter the current password: 1234
  2. Enter your new password. At least 8 characters and composed of numbers and letters. Ideally at least one special character
  3. Enter the password again to confirm it

Then, Armbian asks you to create a user account that is better to use on a daily basis for security

  1. Enter the username
  2. Enter the password
  3. Validate the password by entering it a second time
  4. Finally, indicate some optional information

Finally, Armbian proposes to modify the display resolution using the h3disp tool. Accept, especially if you plug the Orange Pi into a computer monitor.

Here are all the resolutions supported by the board

480i use "-m 480i" or "-m 0"
576i    use "-m 576i" or "-m 1"
480p    use "-m 480p" or "-m 2"
576p    use "-m 576p" or "-m 3"
720p50  use "-m 720p50" or "-m 4"
720p60  use "-m 720p60" or "-m 5"
1080i50 use "-m 1080i50" or "-m 6"
1080i60 use "-m 1080i60" or "-m 7"
1080p24 use "-m 1080p24" or "-m 8"
1080p50 use "-m 1080p50" or "-m 9"
1080p60 use "-m 1080p60" or "-m 10"
1080p25 use "-m 1080p25" or "-m 11"
1080p30 use "-m 1080p30" or "-m 12"
1080p24_3d  use "-m 1080p24_3d" or "-m 13"
720p50_3d   use "-m 720p50_3d" or "-m 14"
720p60_3d   use "-m 720p60_3d" or "-m 15"
1080p24_3d  use "-m 1080p24_3d" or "-m 23"
720p50_3d   use "-m 720p50_3d" or "-m 24"
720p60_3d   use "-m 720p60_3d" or "-m 25"
1080p25 use "-m 1080p25" or "-m 26"
1080p30 use "-m 1080p30" or "-m 27"
4kp30   use "-m 4kp30" or "-m 28"
4kp25   use "-m 4kp25" or "-m 29"
800x480 use "-m 800x480" or "-m 31"
1024x768    use "-m 1024x768" or "-m 32"
1280x1024   use "-m 1280x1024" or "-m 33"
1360x768    use "-m 1360x768" or "-m 34"
1440x900    use "-m 1440x900" or "-m 35"
1680x1050   use "-m 1680x1050" or "-m 36"

The desired format is indicated to the command. Either in the explicit format, for example -m 1280×1024, or by the number – m 33. If you are using an HDMI to DVI converter, you must specify it with the -d parameter, for example

h3disp -m 33 -d
After updating the system with the apt-get upgrade command, the display is likely to be reset. It will be necessary to re-run the command h3disp with the -d option to return to normal. To do this, go through an SSH connection from another computer or smartphone

Configuring WiFi with armbian-config

Armbian now comes with a configuration tool similar to raspi-config on Raspbian for the Raspberry Pi called armbian-config (discussed in detail in this article). Launch the tool then go to the WiFi option. Select the network and enter the password. Your Orange Pi is connected to the network!

Configure the keyboard in your language

To change the keyboard, you must be logged in as root. If this is not the case, run

su -

Now run the following command.

dpkg-reconfigure keyboard-configuration

If you do not find your keyboard type in the list, choose Generic 105-Key

Choose your keyboard and restart with the sudo reboot command to activate the changes.


All the steps in this tutorial may seem long and tedious but it is not. It is actually very simple. When you install Armbian with this method you will have a hard time doing it differently. Here is the proof by the image!

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